There's a long, narrow window beside the front door of my house. Other than using it on rare occasion to see who is knocking at my door, I pay very little attention to it as I go about my days.
Last weekend I happened to walk by it as the light was hitting it just right, and I noticed that it was filthy. It only took a couple of minutes to clean it well inside and out, but it made such a huge difference in how sharply I could see the flower beds along my front walk that it now catches my attention every time I walk by.
I walk by that window and in and out the door next to it many times a day, but I had no idea just how dirty it had gotten until that moment when I woke up to the filth of it. The accumulation of dirt and the deterioration of my ability to see clearly through was so gradual that it went unnoticed for much too long.
The same thing happens with the windows of the soul.
Windows of the soul
I think of the windows to my soul as the places where I have made connections to the deepest parts of who I am. These are the sacred spaces within my life where I can see into my soul to gain the wisdom, guidance, and perspective that comes from this part of myself who remembers its connection to the Infinite More.
I find that I am often most in touch with this sacred parts of myself and the world around me when I am in the midst of great pain and suffering. Those times give me the motivation to break through the usual surface busyness and the clutter of our culture to seek the deeper places of my soul for comfort and healing.
The insights I gain in those seasons into my own nature and the nature of the Divine are often a significant part of the gold of my healing.
But as the hard times pass, it is so easy to lose sight of what I've learned as I fall back into my old patterns of living and thinking. Those ruts are so well-worn in my mind that it takes a good deal of intention and focus to hold onto what I've learned.
Otherwise those windows to the soul that I discovered and cleaned so well during my time of distress will slowly become clouded over again, and I'll lose the precious gold I've found in my healing. For me, that's often meant learning some of those lessons all over again the hard way.
I'm slowly learning to take a more active role in keeping those windows to the soul clean once I've found them in the first place.
Book of you
Several years ago now, I read about the idea of creating a Book of You from Havi Brooks of the Fluent Self. The idea of a Book of You is that it becomes a place where you record those insights you get along the way about how you function best.
This is a great way to keep those important insights I've gained along the way clearly in front of me so I don't forget.
Some of the things in my own Book of You involve lifestyle choices that I've learned are absolutely critical for successfully managing my lifelong tendencies toward depression. They remind me about things like getting enough sleep, eating foods that best support my moods, and spending time outdoors moving my body that are necessary for my mental and emotional well-being.
But this is also a place where I can make note of things I learn about new patterns of relating to others that serve me better than my old, habitual patterns.
It's where I note my body's ways of sending me messages from my soul. This is how I've come to know the cringing constriction in my belly that tells me that my soul is uncomfortable with my choices or actions.
It gives me a place to record signs of growth or changes I'm seeing in myself as I lean more deeply into the wisdom of my soul to guide me.
In the moment any of these insights appear, they seem so obvious that I'm sure I'll never lose them again. But the draw of the old and familiar is so strong that I've learned that unless I make the effort to clearly express them in words and record them somewhere, they quickly melt away and have to be relearned.
A Book of You keeps these things for me so I have easy access to the gold I've gained whenever I need it.
Measure what matters
I've also learned over the years that when I'm trying to make changes in my life, what I measure matters. Having goals that I can measure my progress toward keeps me motivated and on track until the new pattern I'm hoping to adopt becomes a strong habit.
For me, this means things like adding "sacred time" to my daily to do list with a clear definition of what that means for me as a reminder to spend time connecting with my soul and that which is More. I am much more likely to act on this and make it a habitual part of my day than I am if I just have a vague plan to do more spiritual stuff.
The same can be said with goals for time spent writing, the number of steps I walk per day, or a set eating plan that measures the number of produce servings I consume or the number of glasses of water I drink.
When I've clearly defined my goal in a way that can be measured, it motivates me to keep working toward the new habit I'm trying to adopt because I know clearly whether I've done it or not.
For things that are harder to measure, like improving my listening skills or being less critical, I can at least add reminders to my daily to do list that keep the goal in the forefront of my mind and give me a chance to review how I did with them at the end of each day.
This discipline of setting measurable goals that help me enact the insights I've uncovered keeps me focused on using what I've learned and living into a better version of myself. These daily (or weekly) goals help keep the windows of the soul clean with continual growth.
Even with the use of measurable goals, it's still easy for old habits to slowly creep back in without my notice. This is even more true when it comes to those things that are harder to measure, like my patterns of relating to others.
Setting aside time periodically to review my Book of You and see how I'm doing with the things I've learned over time is akin to scheduling reminders to wash my windows of the soul.
This is a chance to review how I'm doing with physical habits (diet, exercise, sleep, etc.), the state of my relationships, my patterns of thinking, and my connection to the Divine to look for places where I've lost sight of what I've learned or lost ground in the life I'm trying to create.
Personally, I find that doing this near the change of each season works well because it allows me to make adjustments to go with the changes each season brings. Invariably, I find that there are things that I've lost track of along the way, places where my windows to the soul have gotten dirty so gradually that I wasn't even aware of my decreased ability to see clearly.
Each time I go through this review and re-clean my windows to the soul, I'm struck once again at the difference it makes to my clarity of view when the windows are clean.
Questions to ponder
When you think of windows of the soul, what comes to mind for you? Is your definition different from mine? What habits and practices help you deepen your connection to your soul and to the Infinite More (however you define that)?
Have you ever created something like a Book of You? If so, how does it work for you? If not, would you be open to trying something like this? What might your Book of You look like? What might it include?
How often do you schedule time for a review of your life? What kinds of things would you want to pay attention to in a review?